FISH-NL says federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc missing boat on problems plaguing industry

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 28th, 2017 

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is outraged with an attack by the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans on the province’s inshore harvesters.

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“Dominic LeBlanc has said straight out he wants to devalue fishing licences when the only thing most inshore harvesters have to retire on is the sale of their licence,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “It’s not like there’s an FFAW pension plan.”

“LeBlanc also appears out to end the ability of inshore harvesters to pass on licences to their children, a tradition that’s gone on for hundreds of years and critical to the future or the inshore fishery.”

In a speech this week to the Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters Federation in Nova Scotia, LeBlanc said fishing licences have become “over-valued” in recent years, and he wants to make it easier for young people to access the fishery by lowering the upfront cost of buying a licence.

“A system where access to a fishing licence is determined by who you’re related to or how many hundreds of thousands of dollars you have, or how much debt you are willing to take on, seems unfair,” LeBlanc said. 

Meantime, inshore harvesters around the province have been saying for years that the rules governing entrance into the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery — which are administered by the FFAW-controlled Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board — are too strict and need to be relaxed. 

“It’s not the value of the licence that’s the problem, but the fact there’s not enough fish to catch,” says Richard Gillett, Vice-President of FISH-NL. 

“It’s no problem for a fisherman to pay back a bank loan when he has fish to sell, but the quotas are that low now that an inshore harvester has trouble just paying for fees and operating expenses, and keeping himself afloat.”

Gillett said federal fisheries mismanagement is as bad today as it was in the early 1990s when the groundfish fisheries collapsed, pointing to an almost 63 per cent cut this year alone in the quota for northern shrimp off southern Labrador and the Great Northern Peninsula. 

The quota has been set at 10,400 tonnes for 2017, down from 48,196 tonnes just two years ago.

“The problem in the fishery today is there’s huge change from one year to the next, and often one day to the next,” Gillett said. “For the love of Jesus bring down policies that put some stability in the industry.”

Cleary said de-valuing a fishing licence — which the FFAW is obviously OK with — should never have been approved as a topic of discussion at the Nova Scotia meeting. 

“Future consultations must also include FISH-NL,” said Cleary. “Otherwise this will be just another sham perpetrated by the FFAW, who will consult only a chosen few, and the vast majority of inshore harvesters will be excluded.”

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